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The modern working world has evolved dramatically over the last few decades - from how and when we work, to the places we work from. Widespread internet connection advances, alongside the growth of cloud-based shared working platforms, have not only created the possibility for increasingly flexible working arrangements, but also fueled a desire to do so – particularly among millennials.

The preference for flexible working has now created a widespread need for more agile workforces, saddling IT departments around the world with the task to maintain ‘business as usual’ without compromising corporate privacy.

With flexible working forecasted to stay for the long haul and passwords increasingly under scrutiny, evaluating alternative secure authentication methods to keep companies’ data and networks safe is important to protect these ‘new normal’ ways of working.  

The end of the humble password?

A recent report by Raconteur found that the most common method of authentication for securing the digital aspects of workplaces is passwords.

Unfortunately, however, between phishing, hacking and simple guesswork, passwords are easily compromised – a problem that is only getting worse, with IT professionals reporting an increase in phishing attacks in the last few years. Once compromised, passwords can be used to enter untrusted apps or websites and, worst and most commonly of all, give rise to even greater data breaches.

Between phishing, hacking and simple guesswork, passwords are easily compromised

Alongside security concerns, 6 in 10 people worry about forgetting their passwords and, according to a recent Balbix study, 99% of people reuse the same password across different work accounts. This, undoubtedly, is a side effect of the increasingly complex character requirements implemented by many enterprises. This stress and effort leads to frustrated employees, but, more worryingly, forgotten passwords can also cost IT departments millions of dollars a year.

In our flexible, hyper-connected world, it is clear then that the humble password is no longer effective. Additional or alternative layers of authentication are needed to help enterprises maintain their workplace security in a more convenient and cost-effective way.  

Smarter workplace authentication with biometrics

Often, hacking incidents involve the use of stolen credentials. One authentication solution that could bring an end to these large-scale hacking attacks is biometrics, as unique biological traits are extremely hard to steal and spoof.

In addition to being a more secure method to authenticate users and prevent fraud in companies’ networks, it is also possible to layer biometric modalities to create a highly convenient and secure multi-modal authentication solution for sensitive areas or information. Spoofing two biometric modalities, such as fingerprint and iris, in the same attack is virtually impossible, but that doesn’t mean this level of security needs to impair the UX. After all, you can put your finger on a touch sensor, while at the same time glancing at a sensor.

For businesses, biometrics can be used in a wide variety of use cases, from securing laptops and applications to authenticating employees at secured access and entry points. It can also be used to add frictionless layers of additional security to any aspect of current security systems, such as key fobs or USB sticks, or to access personalized settings or employee accounts when using shared devices, such as a printer system. This way, beyond playing a role in securing the modern workplace, biometrics can also give employees greater flexibility and convenience over how, when and where they work.

Privacy and biometrics - explained

Many employers and employees worry about safeguarding privacy in the workplace. Considering biometric data is highly personal, it is no wonder, then, that many are concerned about collecting this data for the purpose of workplace security and what liabilities this may expose them to.

For businesses, biometrics can be used in a wide variety of use cases, from securing laptops and applications to authenticating employees

Employers must adhere to the relevant workplace privacy laws, such Europe’s GDPR, and this duty extends to biometrics, of course. But, providing biometrics is implemented in line with best practice, it can actually protect employees’ privacy far more effectively than its predecessor, passwords.

When employers use an on-device approach, their employees can rest assured no one will be able to access or steal their biometric data, as all biometric data is stored and processed on the device - whether that is a laptop, smartphone, USB stick or key fob. Removing the need for data to ever enter the cloud, this also removes the technical and legal complexities of managing a biometric database and, if a key fob is lost for example, all parties can rest assured there is no chance of anyone else being able to use it. A win-win.

Precisely because biometric data is so difficult to steal and spoof, adding biometric authentication to end-point devices can considerably reduce data breaches to keep both sensitive employee and corporate data safe and secure.

Reimagining workplace security

As people work more flexibly, systems are shared more frequently, and attacks get smarter, it is clear to see that passwords alone are no longer enough to secure the modern-day workplace.

Adding biometric authentication to end-point devices can considerably reduce data breaches

Now is the time to reassess the physical and logical access control infrastructure. To keep personal and corporate data safe, it is crucial to add new and additional authentication methods to the security infrastructure. Luckily, the benefits of biometrics are often far simpler to realize than many enterprises imagine.

The beauty of biometrics is its combination of both security and convenience. Compared to other forms of authentication, biometrics offers considerably stronger protection and an enhanced UX that can easily be integrated into existing enterprise security infrastructure – without the need for huge biometric databases to manage or fear.

So, whether to replace outdated passwords or as part of a multi-modal authentication system, biometrics can play an important role in pushing workplace security into a new era for both physical and logical access control.

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